Heroines Of The Abstract Expressionist Era: From The New York School To The Hamptons

The Abstract Expressionist movement is best known for its male superstars, but women were also pioneers of the genre. The exhibition, “Heroines of the Abstract Expressionist Era: From The New York School to The Hamptons,” opening at the Southampton Arts Center on October 7, showcases the work of artists such as Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Perle Fine, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, Alice Baber, Lynne Drexler, and others — women whose artwork finds long overdue acclaim and new appreciation with a contemporary audience. 

Grace Hartigan, 1960, Gouache on paper on canvas photo by Gary Mamay

The Southampton Arts Center is also celebrating women whose work, while not abstract, is associated with the Abstract Expressionist era and are individuals who were part of the New York art scene, such as Mercedes Matter, Hedda Sterne, Jane Freilicher, and Jane Wilson. These works by first and second-generation AbEx women artists are from the collection of Rick Friedman and Cindy Lou Wakefield.

Rick Friedman and Cindy Lou Wakefield. Photo by Adam D Smith

This exhibition features paintings, sculptures, and works on paper that are visually mesmerizing and technically complex. It offers the widest breadth of any private assemblage of this genre, featuring 100 works by 31 women artists. This exhibition differs from other exhibitions by focusing on the 1950 New York School and the migration of many of these artists to the Hamptons.

For the last 17 years, Cindy Lou and Rick have enjoyed the never-ending journey of researching and assembling a collection of “talented but under-appreciated” women artists who helped pioneer the 1950s era AbEx movement, the so-called New York School, and their subsequent migration to the East End.  

Rick noted, “Although our collection was displayed prior at the Fenimore Art Museum and the Nassau County Museum of Art, SAC is the most appropriate venue for this newly expanded survey. Over the past half-century, many of the artists in this show, pioneers of the AbEx movement, proudly exhibited their work in this historic SAC building during their illustrious careers. So this is sort of a ‘homecoming’ show for them. This fall 2023 show provides guests with a ‘rediscovery’ of the breakthrough and innovative mid-century art movement, considered by many as America’s most significant art movement of the 20th century. It also provides a new generation of viewers an opportunity to discover these influential artists, many of whom lived and worked locally.”

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